Plumtree picks strongest squad for WP

2011-08-09 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree said he and the union are “committed to developing young players of all colours” in selecting provincial teams.

Plumtree was reacting to the criticism by Regan Hoskins, president of the SA Rugby Union, that the Currie Cup teams are “too white” and transformation in teams is too slow.

Plumtree said he has always chosen teams on merit although he is committed to developing young black players. “It’s never really been a problem in Durban because we’ve always had such excellent black players coming through. But it is a double-edged sword. You pick a young guy of colour, and he’s not good enough, and that could be the end of his career if he doesn’t play well.”

Plumtree said that rushing any young players could do more harm than good.

“You have to be careful with any player, regardless of colour, at this level. He’s got to be good enough, otherwise it can be a frustrating experience for him, and for everyone else.

“But this is a team game. It’s not about any individual and we remain committed to developing players of all colours. We certainly have some great black players and quite a few of them are involved with the Springboks.

Plumtree highlighted the development of Springboks Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane and described the emerging wing Sibusiso Sithole “as an outstanding footballer and a fantastic young player”.

“We also have one or two coming up through the age groups and I will develop another youngster pretty soon. It’s something on my mind, but I’m also aware that every player is picked when they are ready and they have confidence to perform at that level.

“I had Sithole on the bench for a couple of games while he got used to our style and he played well when I gave him an opportunity, because he went into the game feeling confident about himself. And that’s important.”

Plumtree said he will pick his strongest possible side to face Western Province in Cape Town on Friday night and hinted that Pat Lambie would be at fullback with Frederic Michalak at flyhalf. “That’s what I did in Super Rugby so it’s not an issue with me. They’re both outstanding players and we need to pick our best players when they’re available. I’m happy to pick Pat at fullback.”

Plumtree said that lock Ross Skeate could also return after training well yesterday. “We’ll make a decision on him later in the week, otherwise we’re okay injury-wise.”

Shortly after Plumtree spoke to the media, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers called up Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski as a replacement for Pierre Spies in the Tri-Nations squad, and he could miss the Currie Cup game in Cape Town.

Plumtree said he cannot blame the young players in the Sharks side for the Kimberley loss to Griquas.

“Some of the senior players were also off and that’s been addressed. We certainly expect more than that from them.

“But we’ll get the Boks back into it this weekend. Everyone will be expecting that and we’ll go with experience as much as we can for this visit to Newlands.” Friday’s game kicks off at 7.10 pm in Cape Town.

JOHN Plumtree won the Currie Cup Coach of the Month award for July while Lions scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, now cleared to play for the Blue Bulls, was judged the best player.

The Sharks, under Plumtree and with some 14 senior players missing, won their opening three games in July. But Plumtree appeared slightly embarrassed by the award, which came after Friday night’s loss in Kimberley.

“I’ve always had the philosophy that you’re only as good as your last game, so I’m not feeling that great at the moment. But I was proud of the guys in July when we played some outstanding rugby with a pretty young group.

“It was obviously hotly contested with the Lions doing so well under John Mitchell, and Western Province as well with Alistair Coetzee, so I’m willing to take the prize, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

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